M: So, it’s rainy and cold (high 40’s, low 50’s), and promises to be about the same for the next five days. It snowed a couple weeks ago. This means, clearly, that it’s summer movie season! Well, at least, that’s what it means in New England, where spring generally fluctuates between “extended winter” and “hotter than hell”.
E: I’m pretty sure this is how we started the May preview last year, too. Doesn’t feel like spring here, let alone summer, but that’s what Hollywood considers it.
M: Well, that’s depressing. I’m sure I blamed Al Gore then, so I’ll lay off him this year.
E: Yes, I’m sure you did. I’m amazed at your forbearance.
M: Weather aside, with May come summer blockbusters, and this May is no exception. Now, we only have a couple, and there’s an overall lack of depth to the month’s offerings, but we’ve got at least the two comic-book tent poles to get us through.
E: And a couple of high profile adaptations which seem likely to generate big box office, as well as a low profile literary adaptation that I’m absolutely salivating over.
Captain America: Civil War (wide)
E: If I see any movie in the month leading up to C’s wedding, it’s definitely going to be this one. In fact, this is going to be a birthday outing for my oldest child. I understand that the comic series that gave the film its plot is one of the best in the Marvel ouevre, and I’m really excited to see Cap and Iron Man battle it out. Yes, it looks a bit stressful, but I like that the plot follows naturally from The Age of Ultron.
M: It flows naturally because all Ultron was was a vehicle to set up the next wave of MCU movies, which is why I wasn’t crazy about it. I do have the same concern going into this that I had for that… too many characters. I’m also not crazy about the idea of no villain, or of some of the rumors about a certain character’s ultimate fate.
E: Huh. I know not the rumors of which you speak.
M: I will not share, it’s definitely better that way.
E: I suppose if Marvel is good at anything, it ought to be serialization, right?
M: Well, I’m not so sure about that. What are their best works, in this current (really good) iteration? The first Iron Man, Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy and Winter Soldier, right? Those were all mostly (not entirely) stand alone stories. The first three I listed were “first act” stories, where we’re being introduced to the characters/group. The WS just had a spectacular plot. We will get some introduction, but they need the plot for this one. If it feels forced, I’ll be really disappointed.
E: Agreed, but because I watch Agents of SHIELD, The Winter Soldier doesn’t really seem like a stand-alone plot to me. Anyway, I’m also very excited to see further involvement from Scarlet Witch and Ant Man, and to meet Black Panther and Marvel’s first official version of Spider-man.
M: Oh geez, I forgot Ant-Man in my list of the best Marvel movies. Duh. Anyway, the new character part is what I’m convinced they’ll do really well.
Elstree 1976 (limited)
M: What hides beneath the strange title is a documentary in which actors and extras reminisce about their time on the set of the original Star Wars, and how it’s impacted their lives since.
E: How lovely! I’m going to have to seek this out (even if it might be later, online or on cable).
M: The people in it look and sound great, and it looks like it will tell some fun behind the scenes stories. A theme that runs through a lot of early Star Wars stories, which I really enjoy, is how no one had a clue what it was, nor did they have any idea how big it would become. It’s also pretty telling of what the other studios and distributors expect from Civil War that literally NOTHING else is opening this weekend.
A Bigger Splash (limited)
E: Well, except this indie drama, in which a rock legend played by Tilda Swinton in David Bowie mode hides out on an island with her longtime partner, Matthias Schoenaerts.
M: Hate to pick nits (ok, no, I don’t), but which Bowie mode would you be referring to? Certainly not Ziggy….
E: You didn’t think that clip of her on stage looked Glam Rock?
M: Well, I thought it looked very Tilda Swinton, which I suppose androgynous and space-y also fit, so I’ll give you that.
E: I thought it was very Bowie inspired – androgynous, space-y. Their solitude is interrupted by her old record producer (and old flame) Ralph Fiennes, who invites himself to stay along with his daughter, Dakota Johnson. Infidelity and posturing ensues.
M: Oh, hooray! There’s been a real dearth of movies about infidelity and posturing.
E: I know, I’m always on the hunt for the next great infidelity story. The early reviews are actually great, so if you like those kind of closed system, partner-switching psychological dramas, this could be a “grown up” alternative to Marvel’s universe.
M: Are we really sure that’s “grown up”? Adult, sure, but it’s certainly not mature. And to be clear, by that I mean displaying actual maturity, not, you know, “for mature audiences.”
E: I get you. There’s nothing mature about sleeping these kind of shenanigans. I will say, I’m intrigued by Fiennes in this trailer — it’s a very different role for him. He’s constantly whooping, a giddy, affable, outsized presence. I don’t think of the man who played Voldemort as a bon vivant, and that makes the movie more interesting to me.
M: True, he very rarely plays jubilant, he’s usually either restrained or evil.
E: Here’s a bit of dialog that gives a sense of the piece. Dakota Johnson holds out a cigarette to Schoenaerts. “Want some?” she asks. “I don’t smoke,” he says, leaning away from her. “That doesn’t mean you don’t want some,” she smolders at him.
M: As I barf.
E: Excellent display of maturity, bro.
M: Yeah, well, that one just struck me as a writer feeling really smugly proud of the social commentary they were providing with that line, as opposed to something anyone would ever actually say.
Dark Horse (limited)
E: I know it’s a low bar, but this trailer made me cry.
M: Yeah, that bar’s so low it’s looking up at magma.
E: You say that, but I bet you loved the trailer as much as I did.
M: Oh, I totally did. I didn’t even consider that it might bring someone to tears, though.
E: Well, I am all over this kind of sentimental schtick. In a mining town in Northern England, a bunch of grocery store clerks and other less than royal folks pool money, buy a race horse, and try their hand at the sport of kings. And win.
M: Yeah, I really love the look of this. The Full Monty or Brassed Off feel, the accents, the salt-of-the-Earth people and of course, where we siblings were raised on a thoroughbred horse farm, the horse racing element. This looks like such a genuinely winning film.
E: Oh, and did we mention that it’s a documentary? An award-winning, glowingly-reviewed documentary?
M: Seriously, how do you top that!
E: With salty, glistening tears.
Being Charlie (limited)
M: This certainly won’t top it, but it also looks to be very emotional.
E: Meet Charlie, the prep school punk addict son of Cary Elwes film star turned gubernatorial candidate. See Charlie shoot up and throw things through church windows. See him sneer dismissively at his rich, beautiful parents in their richly appointed home. And see him enter rehab where rapper/actor Common dispenses wisdom, and initially surly fellow addict Morgan Saylor becomes his glowing sarcastic angel. But in the long run, are two addicts actually good for each other? Is returning home to the father he was never good enough for going to help him or hurt him? Gee, let us wonder what the movie’s answer is.
M: See Charlie do stand up, where he gets both flack and laughs for making jokes about addiction.
E: Yeah, the least cliched part of the movie is probably Charlie’s stand up routines.
M: So, you know what’s not cliche about this? That it’s directed by Rob Reiner.
E: Wait, what? When was the last time our old favorite even made a movie?
M: He last directed And So It Goes, about which I said in our July 2014 preview “Seriously, depending on how you feel about The Bucket List, you can make a case that his last good movie was A Few Good Men.” That aside, you know what else isn’t cliche? That his son, who has apparently battled addiction, co-wrote it.
M: Now, not to be mean or anything, but is anyone surprised that Rob Reiner’s son has battled addiction?
E: No, not really, though is any celebrity child free from that negative expectation?. I am kind of surprised to see him associated with a movie that’s not previewing well, though.
M: I point you back to my July 2014 comment.
E: It’s like he forgot how to make movies, and I don’t understand that.
M: I wonder the same thing about M. Night Shyamalan.
The Darkness (wide)
M: I’m pretty sure that this horror flick being one of only two wide-releases this weekend is another tip of the cap (pun intended) to what Hollywood things Civil War will do at the box office. It feels much more like an October movie than something headlining a weekend in May.
E: Agreed. The God you may be familiar with can’t help you now, an expert tells a family (Radha Mitchell and Kevin Bacon) after their son (Gotham‘s David Mazouz) brings home a Native American artifact from the Grand Canyon which releases malevolent spirits from a prison dimension.
M: David Mazouz, who was in Touch before he was on Gotham, is fast becoming one of, if not the, best young actors out there. It’s amazing what he was able to do on Touch without ever speaking. Where this is not slasher-horror, I’m almost interested in it just because of his presence… but then people start gushing oil-like black goo from their mouths, and I’m out.
E: It looks creepy rather than gory, what with all those dirty handprints the invisible spirits leave on everything – particularly the bed of the family’s teenage daughter. You get all the typical attributes, really, but in a well made package – imperiled hot blond teenager, cursed object, gorgeous house wrecked by spirits, moral dimension to the cursing…
M: Kevin Bacon….
Money Monster (wide)
E: Ocean’s Eleven costars George Clooney and Julia Roberts star as, respectively, the host and producer of a cable finance show.
M: A financial show that gets hijacked, literally, by a gun wielding Jack O’Connell (Unbroken). He takes Clooney hostage, puts a suicide vest on him, and tries to extract some revenge on the financial industry for his and his girlfriend’s life savings being lost. Along the way Clooney turns to his side and it turns into a bit of a crusade.
E: He launches an investigation in the immoral and illegal dealings of Outlander‘s Catriona Balfe and veteran “hey, it’s that guy” Denis Boutsikaris.
M: So, you know I instinctively get very wary when left-wing stars roll out these message movies railing against people who make ever-so-slightly more money than they do. This one, though? It looks like a taut, edge-of-your-seat flick with really good potential. And sometimes these movies find the correct, actually corrupt villain. I’m not sure if this one is that movie, but it looks like it could be.
E: Wow. I totally agree, but I can’t believe my neo-con brother just wrote that.
M: Oh, neo-con is not at all the right way to describe me. Especially relevant to this discussion is that I was against the 2008 bank bailout.
M: Loki… ok ,Tom Hiddleston… moves into a new high-rise apartment building that is about as obvious an allegory as there ever was. The people on the top floors have huge, luxurious apartments, fancy costume and period parties, are all beautiful people, and their power stays on all the time. The people on the bottom are poor, depressed and have rolling blackouts.
E: Which totally makes sense in the same building.
M: Oh, and in classic movie fashion, they are beautiful people made to try to look like they’re ugly. Eventually they’re going to rise up, or more likely try to tear everything down, or something.
E: Of course they are.
M: Jeremy Irons is the building’s designer and owner, Sienna Miller is the seductive upstairs neighbor, Luke Evans the fake-ugly lower class… er, floor… hero.
E: Yeah, none of that is obvious at all.
M: It reminds me a lot of Snowpiercer, actually, but with a building instead of a train. Which reminds me of a thing I saw about pitching movies to studios, and how everything gets pitched as “this successful thing, except with such and such different.” As an example, after the success of Die Hard, everything got pitched as Die Hard, but in such and such a location. Under Siege was Die Hard on a boat. The guy in the documentary was cracking up, because he had someone pitch him “It’s Die Hard, but in a building.”
E: Which is silly, in case you haven’t seen it, because Die Hard IS in a building.
M: Exactly. Anyway, this is Snowpiercer, but in a building. And we know how well Snowpiercer turned out.
E: With great reviews and bad box office.
M: More wildly divergent reviews, some that loved, some that thought it was a trainwreck (pun intended).
E: Now, let me just say, I think the idea’s far too obvious an analogy, but I like the cast (including Elizabeth Moss as Evans’ wife or girlfriend) and I find it all very stylish, even with the definite 60’s flair. I’d stream this if the reviews turn out to be good.
M: I probably would, too.
Love & Friendship (limited)
M: This is based on the Jane Austen novella Lady Susan. Which means I need to hand the reigns over to my sister (would very much be to both sisters if C had the time).
E: Okay, so. Lady Susan is probably Austen’s least known novel, but a sparkling and hilarious one nonetheless.
M: I will say, the trailer is very funny.
E: The novel is epistolary in form (composed, that is, of letters between various characters) and tells the story of a scheming, seductive widow and her shy, bullied daughter who comes to stay with the brother of Lady Susan’s former husband. She carries on intrigues and attempts to marry her daughter off to a rich idiot, all the while pretending to be so sweet and loving that she hoodwinks almost every male she comes in contact with.
M: Actually seems pretty plausible.
E: It’s all rather delicious, because they all know it’s coming, yet fall for the act anyway. I can’t wait to see Kate Beckinsale take on the role.
M: Agreed, I feel like she’s under-appreciated.
E: Absolutely. We’ve loved her since Much Ado About Nothing, and while she can do brilliant costume drama she gets little credit for helming the under-rated but terrifically fun Underworld films. The trailer looks brilliant and I have higher hopes for this adaptation than any Austen I’ve seen in years (perhaps in part because I’m not quite as fanatical about textual fidelity as I would be for absolute favorites Persuasion or Pride and Prejudice).
The Lobster (limited)
M: So, huh, this is an odd but interesting one. Collin Farrell stars as a man who enters a dating program where people try to find a spouse. It’s no match.com, though, as the people all live together on one big estate. Plus, they only have 45 days to find their mate. Oh, and did I mention that if they don’t find a spouse in that time, they get turned into an animal?
E: Well, that’s odd for sure.
M: Seriously, like actual metamorphosis. Farrell’s character shows up in the first scene with a dog… who used to be his brother.
E: It’s like going on The Bachelor, but instead just leaving in a limo, you get thrown into a Greek myth of Circe instead.
M: I’m pretty sure that’s how it was pitched to the studio.
E: What I don’t understand is why anyone would ever go there. Perhaps they imagine that other people would be more likely to fall in love with them under the threat of transmogrification?
M: Not sure, but I’m willing to bet that gets explained early on. Now the title comes from Farrell’s character’s choice of what animal he will get turned into if he doesn’t snag himself a wife. Rachel Weisz co-stars as his most likely candidate. John C. Reilly, Lea Seydoux and Ben Whishaw also join the cast.
E: And it’s a good cast, it’s just a really, really puzzling premise.
M: Honestly, I kinda like the look of it. Obviously not to go to a theater to see, but I’ll probably Netflix it some time in the not too distant future.
E: Not me! And good luck convincing Mrs. M to see it with you.
Last Days In The Desert (limited)
M: Continuing 2016’s trend of fictionalized chapters set in the middle of Bible stories, in this one Ewan McGregor stars as Jesus during his 40 days of trials in the desert, right before he entered Jerusalem. I really don’t know what to make of it from the trailer.
E: Well, for me that’s at least in part because he’s hardly alone in the desert for a moment. He’s haunted and tormented and tried by visions, that of a beautiful and seductive woman, of wolves, of an angry teenage boy, of Ciaran Hinds, and of himself. At least, I think they’re all visions, manifestations of his own internal doubts and fears. I can see how that’s an interesting dramatic take on the subject, but I’m not entirely sold that it’s working.
M: Agreed. McGregor’s a terrific actor, but unfortunately he appears to be using his Obi-wan Kenobi speech cadence, so it sounds way too much like Star Wars Jesus to me. And I don’t know the filmmakers to know if I trust that this will be respectful, or another Last Temptation of Christ.
E: A poster quipped “this is not the movie you’re looking for” on Youtube, which seems to sum up your sense of the thing. I’m very curious to hear the reviews, though I’m not sure that will help: religious audience are eager to like religious movies, and critics seem extra critical.
M: Because as eager as religious audiences are to like them, non-religious audiences (which includes most critics) are just as eager to see them fail.
The Angry Birds Movie (wide)
M: Blech! This movie looks like a bunch of animated stereotypes and cliches thrown together around the characters from the famous video game. I’m struggling to think of ways it would look less appealing to me. Maybe if they made it a slasher movie?
E: My kids are dying to see this story of a bird with anger management issues who’s able to see through the charming pig interlopers trying to con the birds out of their eggs, and I think it looks like a vat of flaming poo. (Or perhaps I mean pee, considering the horrific scene that involves characters bathing in a Pool of Wisdom only to learn it was the Great Eagle’s toilet.)
M: I feel like that analogy sullies the reputation of vats of flaming poo.
Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (wide)
M: Speaking of things that sully the reputation of vats of flaming poo…
E: Ugh ugh and double ugh. I avoid Zac Efron on principle, and Seth Rogen is starting to become the opposite of a draw as well.
M: It’s sad to say, but I agree about Rogan. Now, in fairness, I had no interest in the original. The basic premise of the sequel is that, after successfully (apparently? I don’t know, I didn’t see it) getting the rude frat-boys-next-door to move out, Seth Rogan and Rose Byrne’s new neighbors are, you guessed it, wild sorority girls. So wild, in fact, that they’re a new sorority formed because all the other sororities wouldn’t let them party enough. Because, you know, sororities are so anti-party. All the same hi-jinx as in the first ensues, except with bikini-clad girls, instead of shirtless guys. I feel dumber just by knowing the plot of this movie.
E: The only thing that’s interesting about this is the one kernel of truth in Selena Gomez’s speech to would-be-partier Chloe Grace Moretz (which, so painful to see an actress of her caliber in a movie like this): sororities are actually not allowed to throw alcoholic parties. Now, you could have a smart and interesting documentary on that subject (some research suggests you’d have less rape and accidents at a kegger run by girls), but this is not that film.
M: No, it’s not. The only thing I saw as even remotely interesting or funny was the moment in the trailer when the sorority girl tries to steal the wall phone, and gets upended when the cord reaches its end. Putting aside that Rogan and Byrne are too young to have a corded phone, and that no one has corded wall phones any more, even truly old people, that made me chuckle.
E: I did laugh a little at the trailer, particularly the conversation about how to spell sorority. After Rose Byrne adds an extra “it” husband Seth wonders if she thinks the “titty” is silent.
M: Ok, you’re right, that was funny too. That was about it, though, and we’ve already given this too much time.
The Nice Guys (wide)
M: Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe star as PI’s in 1970’s LA who are investigating a missing girl.
E: Looked more like a woman to me.
M: Fine. Young woman. Not a girl girl. Someone’s daughter who is not yet… gah, you know what I mean. Let’s move on.
E: Yes, please do.
M: There’s all kinds of shenanigans, and it’s hard to tell what the heck is going on. What I can tell is that Gosling is squamish and doesn’t have the stomach for the work he does, while Crowe looks to be treating his character almost as an older version of Bud White from the movie that made him a star, LA Confidential.
E: Love love love LA Confidential, as I know you do…
M: … we both do…
E: … yes, that’s what I said, and I love seeing Kim Basinger as the mother who sends the men on their quest – but “squamish”? I kind of wish that was a word and not just a typo for squeamish, because it looks awesome.
M: Ok, I didn’t notice that, but now I’m going to make it a thing!
E: I would tell you to stop trying to make “fetch” happen, but who knows? Maybe squamish could happen. I like it.
M: As for the movie, it’s definitely an action-comedy, with some funny moments in the trailer, and it looks a bit mad-cap. I don’t know, though, the trailer overall doesn’t hit a lot of the right notes for me. It’s aiming to be really, really 70’s, which might be part of it for me, not a big fan. I think I’ll wait to hear from people I trust on this one.
E: I agree that the seventies style doesn’t sell me, but I’m more intrigued by this than you are. I laughed fairly often at the preview. I mean, we’re not exactly going to be spending this month in the multiplex (more like prepping for C’s wedding) but I could see myself going for this if the reviews are good.
M: So, since we started writing this I’ve seen the trailer a couple more times, and I will say, it’s growing on me.
M: A behind the scenes documentary of the campaign of Anthony Weiner (as it says in the trailer, yes, THAT Anthony Weiner) when he ran for mayor of New York after his scandal. Looks to be fairly self-deprecating, potentially funny and probably a must for political wonks. Hopefully they won’t actually show the famous pictures. That would make just about anyone squamish.
E: Being wonky, I’m definitely interested. This is one of those schadenfreude stories, though, and those just make me sad. This guy had everything going for him. Why couldn’t he just keep it in his pants? Why are human beings so self-defeating?
M: If we had the answer to that question, we wouldn’t be writing an anonymous entertainment blog…
Ma Ma (limited)
M: E, remember the conversations we’ve had about how Penelope Cruz is actually a good actress, but pretty much only when she’s acting in Spanish? Well, this is in Spanish, and it looks to be pretty fantastic.
E: It does look pretty great, doesn’t it? I can’t think when the last time I said that about a Penelope Cruz movie was, if ever.
M: Pretty sure it’s a never for me. Cruz stars as a wife and mother, who first develops breast cancer, then becomes pregnant with a daughter. It pretty much chronicles her relationships with her husband, her ten-ish year old son (with whom she is very close), and her unborn daughter. Having known many people who have battled breast cancer, this looks like a really truthful look at the struggles, but also the love and caring and the intense personal and emotional bonds.
E: I can’t help but think of a friend going through treatment right now, who happens to be Spanish and the mother of sons. So, yeah. This one packs a punch, and as much as anything else, it delivers through the joy and connection this family feels despite great sorrow.
M: I thought of the same friend.
X-Men: Apocalypse (wide)
M: So, you know what I’m hoping for? I’m hoping that the success of fun, brighter comic book movies like Ant-Man and even to an extent Guardians of the Galaxy can make studios realize that super hero/comic book movies should be fun. I liked Batman v Superman, but there was nothing fun about it. I’ve liked the X-Men reboot so far, but it’s been getting darker and darker with each movie. I want fun movies, dang it!!
E: And what’s more fun than the Apocalypse?
M: Right!! Ok, rant over. This dark, heavy sequel still brings back Bryan Singer as director, which is always a good thing for X-Men movies. It sets up ubervillain Apocalypse (the ever-present Oscar Isaac), who may or may not actually be God. Yeah, that’s where they’re going with it.
E: Not that he looks like Oscar Isaacs, but sure. They did cast a good actor in another role, yes.
M: There’s a “new” slate of mutants, including Psylocke (Olivia Munn, who turned down Deadpool in favor of this, apparently so she wouldn’t “just be the girlfriend.” Good for her!), a new Storm, a new Jean Grey, a new Cyclops, a new Jubilee, a new Nightcrawler…. getting the picture?
E: I do. And Jean Grey is Sansa Stark! I hope she gets to kick butt in some way (as Psylocke definitely does).
M: We get treated to oh so clever lines like “The 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse… he got that from the Bible” “Or the Bible got it from him.” OOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHH!!!!
E: I’m sensing some hostility here, M. What gives?
M: Really, I should be excited for this.
E: You really should.
M: Instead I’m a little squamish. I love X-Men comics, cartoons and movies. I loved X-Men and X2, First Class and especially Days of Future Past. I love Bryan Singer as a director. I love most of the cast. But, well, it’s not even coming close to doing it for me. Despite all the explosions and chaos and stuff it looks dark and, well, dull.
E: That’s because explosions don’t make a movie interesting by themselves, dude.
M: You left out chaos, so I’m assuming you think that does.
E: No, but I did think the fight sequences looked good. I’m kind of over super-sized villains, and destroying iconic buildings was played out not too long after Independence Day.
M: Exactly, none of it feels original, or fun.
E: Still. I’m open to being entertained by this.
M: So, remember in Being John Malkovich (which I hated, mind you) when Malkovich went into his own mind, and it was all trippy and Malkovich-y? Well, watching the trailer for this felt to me like Tim Burton went through the little door into his own mind, and this was just the camera that was following him through there.
E: That sounds about right. It’s bright and strange and involves lots of ornate Victorian decorations and accusations of madness. The costumes look fabulous, as with its Oscar winning predecessor. The plot (which revolves around the Mad Hatter being sick, and Time – Sasha Baron Cohen – being cursing Wonderland) has nothing to do with the book, but whatever.
As I AM: The Life and Time Of DJ AM (limited)
M: So, there’s literally next to nothing coming out this weekend, so much so that this was the only limited release that I could find that looked even the tiniest bit worth including in this post. It’s actually pretty interesting, a documentary about the first “DJ to the stars.”
E: I’m of two minds about this. It seems like a very insular world, first of all, and I’ve never heard of any of these other DJs and producers or really anybody but Dan Savage.
M: Come on, even I’ve heard of Steve Aoki.
E: Anyway, their praise borders on hagiography. So I watch the trailer thinking, is it possible that this guy was that amazing? But the more I watch, the more I want to see the whole movie to figure out if he was.
M: Which is exactly what a trailer should do, right?
E: I suppose, but I would think a trailer for this would try to show me glimpses of how brilliant he was, not make me question it.
M: Ok, that’s fair, and will suffice as our final point for the month. Readers, did you find anything you like the look of? Anything you’re squamish about? Let us know in the comments!